In Cameroon, the term “buy-am-sell-am” is of the language of the little folk. It is of broken English. Etymologically, it is comprised of three words: “buy,” “am” and “sell.” “Buy” and “sell” would retain their meaning when they are translated into English. The other term “am,” of the trilogy would be translated now as “it,” and then as “they.” “Buy-am-sell-am” = “Buy it and sell it.” “Buy-am-sell-am” = “Buy them and sell them.”
The items that are bought and sold are farm food produce. The term “buy-am-sell-am” designates the people in the buying and selling activity – hence, “buy-am-sell-am” = “those in buying and selling.” Despite the fact that it is a term of broken English in Cameroon, the meaning suggested in the origin arose in the French-speaking section of Cameroon where the term is pronounced “bayam-sellam.”
“Buy-am-sell-am” designates a category of market women who shuttle between the city and the country. From the country they acquire easily perishable farm produce to re-sell in “wholesale” quantities to yet other women in the same activity but of smaller sized enterprise of the city.
Looking good and fine attires are of no interest to the majority of these women. Their only concern is to sell off their merchandise which they display on bare ground.
In the market these women occupy about a third of the space reserved for food produce.
To become a buy-am-sell-am, it takes a good financial capital, voluntarily sacrifice of family life, but especially physically fitness, for sometimes the competition for the market [to buy or to sell] can be really hard in every sense of the word, going into scuffles [brawls] over merchandise which arrive from the country. In Cameroonian markets, it is common to see buy-am-sell-am without shame tear away one another for a bunch of plantain on the carriage of a taxicab each one claiming to be the one who saw it first.